The wheel of fortune will start changing from Sri Lanka

DEBASISH DATTA

S. SUBRAMANIUM

RYAN GIGGS Country, Wales, is famous for its English-bashing. People who dislike the English are made to feel at home in Wales. Perhaps, this might explain why the Glamorgan County Cricket Club in Cardiff had no hesitation in welcoming Sourav Ganguly, the man who dared to bare his chest on the balcony of Lord's during that eventful June evening of the NatWest Trophy final in 2002. The Welsh county has a rich tradition of non-inclusion of cricketers of English origin. However, cricketers of other countries have been welcomed. Vivian Richards, Majid Khan, Javed Miandad and Ravi Shastri have played major roles for the county over the years and Glamorgan supporters expected an encore from Ganguly too. Ganguly spoke to The Sportstar exclusively during his county stint:

QUESTION: You must be enjoying Glamorgan?

ANSWER: Glamorgan is the best thing to have happened to me in the last 50 days. I was looking for an opportunity to play matches. When Glamorgan offered me the opportunity, I was overjoyed. My main task was to put my head down and get some runs. I'm trying. Gradually I'm getting back my rhythm.

How is Cardiff?

It is really a beautiful place. The team members have given me a very warm welcome. Cardiff is having its centenary, but the Cardiff Castle is more than 700 years old. I've been regularly watching the wall of the castle while I drive down to Sofia Garden from my flat. I've a plan to go inside the castle at least once during my stint with Glamorgan.

Is Glamorgan happy with you?

I hope so. We needed to bat well and I have tried my level best. Glamorgan has given me the much-needed confidence. I went to Europe on a holiday. And I got the offer after reaching London, which I immediately accepted. I didn't carry my cricket kit bag initially. After I signed the contract, I sent for the kit.

We saw in pictures that your jersey number was nine?

Glamorgan has given me the number and I use that. I've never used the number nine jersey before.

"I have always been fond of Greg Chappell. I think he will be of great help to us. He was a great batsman, history would tell you. He has a vision as a coach too."-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Soccer star Ronaldo uses the number nine jersey.

Yeah. I know that. I'm a big fan of Ronaldo and Brazil. The way Brazil won the Confederations Cup is simply brilliant. I watched the action on television. I also watched the French Open and Wimbledon regularly. I wanted to go to Roland Garros and Wimbledon and see the tennis action but the county assignment didn't allow me to do that.

In county cricket, you've to play 105 overs a day. That's a new experience for you.

Yes, it's an experience. I'm learning. You've to learn how to save your energy despite playing 105 overs and be fresh for the next day.

Your first county stint for Lancashire was not a good experience, right?

That was my first season in county cricket. I needed to learn how to be fresh even after playing seven days a week. This time I think I've learnt it. It's not bothering me any more. We are coming from a different background. So, it's quite natural for us to have different lifestyles.

"I sincerely think a genuine and real assessment of Anil Kumble's bowling will come after he retires. In the Tsunami relief match at Lord's, there were so many superstars. Yet Anil won the Man of the Match award."-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Will you come back to play county cricket in the next season?

It is too early to comment about that. Even if I come, I won't be able to stay for four months. I may come for a brief stint of one and half months.

Tell us something about your Twenty-20 experience.

It's like football, you can say. It finishes so early like soccer. And the excitement, too, is the same. You've just 120 deliveries. It is a mini One-dayer. There's just no scope of doing anything else other than hitting. It's bringing in more crowds to the grounds and that's why it is now a craze in Britain. I won't be able to tell you the situation in other countries. But the English spectators have really taken a liking to the new version of the game.

What can be a safe score in a 20-overs match? Can you predict?

No, nobody can do so. A team can make 36 all out or 236! Anything's possible. The slogan of the game is: Go and hit!

Coming to your international career, the last year was very depressing, wasn't it?

Very very depressing. In fact, I would pray to Almighty that such streaks of lean form should not come not just to me but to any sportsperson.

What is the difference between a batsman in form and a batsman out of form?

A batsman batting in form is like driving on a highway without any fear. But the same batsman, when he is out of form, it's like driving on the highway with two patrol cars in front and behind.

Not only the batting form, you were handed a six-match suspension?

I should not talk about it.

What did Greg Chappell tell you over the telephone when he requested you to come?

Well, he is the coach of the Indian team and as a player, it's my duty to obey him. He told me to fly down even if it is for just two days. He wanted to meet all the players. Which is why even the injured Sachin Tendulkar had to come. With the Sri Lanka tour — his first assignment with the team — in mind, the coach had something to discuss and therefore he summoned all the cricketers.

Before Greg Chappell became the coach, you'd gone to Sydney for some discussions with him and you'd said that he was a great thinker of the game. Now, he is the coach of the Indian team.

He was a great batsman, history would tell you that. And definitely he has a vision as a coach too. BCCI had appointed a committee to choose the Indian coach. I've always been fond of him. I think he will be of great help to us.

The game's ruling body has introduced some new rules. And Sachin Tendulkar was of the opinion that the skippers will have to be more thoughtful.

Sachin is absolutely right. The captains will have more responsibilities. Every captain has to go through a lot more of the thinking process. However, the rules are not yet fully clear to me. I've to go through the rule book first. For example, suppose I want to have a left-arm spinner during the course of an innings. Can I summon the left-arm spinner substituting any one among the fielders even if the left-arm spinner is not in the first 12 of the team? Is it necessary to announce the first 12 before the match? I need to know these things before commenting on the rule changes.

You have been in England for quite some time now and you have seen the Aussies in action. What went wrong for them, especially in the Bangladesh game?

It's a one-off incident, sometimes it happens. Ashraful batted really well that day, you've to give credit to him for such wonderful batting. But these Aussies are just awesome. They have the habit of coming back strongly. The way Adam Gilchrist batted in the third and decisive match of the NatWest challenge said it all. They are ready to bounce back in the Ashes.

Do you consider the Aussies as favourites in the Ashes?

This time it'll be a little different. England is playing quite well these days. And if Harmison is in his wicket-taking form, they will definitely give the Aussies a run for their money. It'll be an interesting series. But I must say that people have written off this Australian team too soon just after watching them in their first week or so in England. What happened is, in their earlier tours they played some friendlies before the international matches and they didn't play them this time. They have been the best in the last decade consistently and such an awesome team does not become bad overnight. You can expect exciting cricket in the two months ahead.

You were there at Lord's to play the second Tsunami match. How did it feel to be back there?

I have always said that Lord's is my second home. Not only for the Test debut and the hundred, but this is the ground that has always given me something. How can I forget the NatWest final, the unforgettable run chase? The ambience is such that you're bound to be thrilled. I like Melbourne and Eden Gardens too. When you have full house on those three grounds, it's a sight really.

You're said to be tough mentally. From where do you derive your mental strength?

To an extent, it is in built. With the passage of time and more experience it has only strengthened.

Anil Kumble was very happy to hear that you'd predicted 600 Test wickets for him.

In the last 19 months, I think he has taken around 120 wickets. That's just tremendous. People were sceptical about him before the Australian tour. But there was just no stopping him after that. I sincerely think a genuine and real assessment of his game will come after he retires from the international circuit. There were so many superstars in the Tsunami relief match at Lords'. Yet Anil was the Man of the Match. I'm sure his experience will fetch more victories for India.

But will there be any one to fit in the shoes of Kumble?

There is nobody except Harbhajan Singh. The team needs match-winning bowlers and these two spinners can win matches on their own. We are especially proud of them since both of them play for us. And Harbhajan has bowled well for Surrey too in the county season.

Where will you bat in the One-dayers? Will you open the innings again?

I really don't know what are the plans of the selectors. I've not met them for quite some time since I'm serving the ban from the Ahmedabad One-dayer against Pakistan. Meanwhile we have a new coach. We all have to sit and discuss.

We had problems at the top of the batting order and behind the stumps in Tests. And we have tried to solve those problems by taking two new guys in Gautam Gambhir and Dinesh Kaarthick. Do you feel that their inclusion made a serious difference?

At least, we had tried to do something. It's not possible to change every one in the first eleven. That's not fair too. And both of them played reasonably well against the South Africans and Bangladesh. Keeping the same eleven is a fine concept, but all the players have to perform to a minimum level. They should make sure the team wins. If you can't, changes will be there.

How will India play in the tri-series in Sri Lanka?

Normally, the team plays well in Sri Lanka. I'm sure we'll do well in the islands. We all know that we have not played well for a long time. I'm sure the wheel of fortune will start changing from Sri Lanka.